The importance of talking to your children about sexual health: part three
Parenting is difficult enough without even considered the implications of sexual health and gender equality, but these topics are important and must be discussed. Our role as parents is to aptly inform and prepare our children to succeed and cope with potential difficulties, including self confidence and care, body confidence, relationships, and the boundaries of what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour by or towards them.
Join me in exploring the importance of educating our children on sexual health. This is a four-part series where we’ll look at the whys, why-nots, the difficulties, and the benefits of parent-led sexual health education for our children.
There are very many benefits to providing children and young adults with comprehensive sex education. The numerous benefits include both reduced maternal and child mortality, reducing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases or infections and of course, overall improvement of sexual health and awareness in young people (and adults!).
It doesn’t stop there. Receiving a comprehensive sexual health education has many more positives. Early, teenage or unwanted pregnancy rates drop substantially , child marriage and forced marriage rates decrease, and young girls and boys can become empowered against sexual violence or abuse, when they are sufficiently educated about sexual health. On top of that, teaching children about their reproductive systems, exploring the ideas of sexual preference, gender fluidity, removing gender stereotypes and expectations of behaviour based solely on gender can lead to an increased understanding and awareness of others. Less girls miss school due to the stigmas associated with menstruation when girls (and boys) are informed about their periods and menstrual cycles (what they are and how to handle them) and not ashamed. Parents can provide their children with sanitary products and proper hygiene supplies instead of girls ashamedly turning to ad hoc solutions which can have severe negative consequences in addition to missing school. Girls not dropping out of school for menstruation-related reasons can have a positive knock-on effect that can lead to reduced child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM) rates overall. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) found that some sexual education programmes actually delayed initiation of sexual intercourse by 37%, reduced the frequency of sex by 31%, reduced the number of sexual partners by 44% and increased the use of condoms and contraception by 40%. Informed young people are much more likely to have sex later, with less partners, engage in sexual activity less frequently and to do it safely. Not equipping children with the knowledge they need to deal with their unanswered questions can cause guilt, shame, isolation, and can contribute to bullying or stigmatisation of sexuality or basic biological functions. Informed decision making alleviates perilous behaviour. When sex is a mysterious topic which is not properly discussed, it becomes stigmatised. Young people might engage in sex simply because they are curious or influenced by peer pressure instead of making informed decisions. Well-informed people tend to make better decisions. Comprehensive sex education is a great thing.
Keep an eye out tomorrow for part four of this series, where I’ll bring everything together and summarise the importance of discussing sexual health with your children.
**Rape culture can impact anyone, regardless of gender but for the purpose of this article on raising children, I’m generally referring to boys contributing to a culture which normalises abuse towards women or girls.